Matthew 5:13-22 (ESV)
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
Jesus continued his sermon, leaving much to meditate on and think about. For instance, in verses 21-22, and then five more times throughout this chapter, Jesus states, “You have heard that it was said… But I say to you…” In doing this, Jesus contrasted the difference between what the religious leaders of the day taught and what God really looks for. Clearly, Jesus emphasized that God not only cares about our outward behavior, but about our inner attitudes and motives as well. Backing up, an important section of this passage that is often overlooked reveals the core of Jesus’ ministry. In verse 17, Jesus states that he came not “to abolish the Law or the Prophets” but “to fulfill them.” The phrase “the Law and the Prophets” was used to refer to the entire Old Testament. In verse 18, Jesus uses the word “truly.” This is actually the Greek word we translate as “amen.” Jesus commonly prefaced his teaching with “amen” when he was making an intense declaration. Jesus taught that neither an iota nor a dot will pass away from the Law until all is fulfilled. The iota in Hebrew script has been compared to the dot above the English lower case letter “i,” and the dot compared to the stroke that makes the difference between the capital letter “P” and the capital letter “R.”
So what did Jesus mean when he said, “neither an iota nor a dot” will pass away? Jesus declared that every detail of the Scripture would be obeyed by him and fulfilled in him. He lived in line with what the Law taught, and he brought the Scripture to completion by fulfilling the prophetic words that pointed to him. Because Jesus ushered in the New Covenant, we can forget that he loved, obeyed, and fulfilled the Old Testament. He taught his audience not to “relax” even one of the commandments or instruct others to do so. Though the rabbis of the day made a distinction between light and heavy commandments, Jesus explained that they were all important to God, and they were important to him too. The person who obeys the commands of God and instructs others to obey as well will be called great in the kingdom (v. 19). Let’s make sure we embrace the full counsel of Scripture instead of keeping the parts we like and throwing out the parts we don’t. Let’s choose to love God’s law the way Jesus did.